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The Saco River’s good Samaritans
Source:  The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

A group of four friends, three of them certified scuba divers, have made it their mission this summer to haul trash out of the Saco River.

The Saco River’s good Samaritans
Source:  Central Maine » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

A group of four friends, three of them certified scuba divers, have made it their mission this summer to haul trash out of the Saco River.

On this date in Maine history: Aug. 24
Source:  The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

Aug. 24, 1857: Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), a prolific painter who was born in Lovell and raised in Augusta and Fryeburg, begins a two-month visit to Grand Portage, Minnesota Territory, where he creates a series of portraits “that for several reasons have come to be regarded as perhaps the most sensitive midcentury likenesses of Native Americans.â€� […]

On this date in Maine history: Aug. 24
Source:  Central Maine » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

Aug. 24, 1857: Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), a prolific painter who was born in Lovell and raised in Augusta and Fryeburg, begins a two-month visit to Grand Portage, Minnesota Territory, where he creates a series of portraits “that for several reasons have come to be regarded as perhaps the most sensitive midcentury likenesses of Native Americans.â€� […]

Developer seeks $32 million tax subsidy to build housing in downtown Portland
Source:  The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

Presidium Real Estate is asking the city for a tax break over the next 30 years to help finance a 265-unit apartment building at 45 Brown St.

Photo gallery: Heavy metal music and a midlife crisis
Source:  The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

With Portland's music venues closed because of the pandemic, now seems like the right time to revisit what feels like a bygone era.

More cities want police oversight boards, but Portland’s is failing, members say
Source:  Central Maine » News
Monday, 24 August 2020 03:00

The Police Citizen Review Subcommittee is working to come up with options for reform and get public support.

Obituary: Henrietta St. Onge
Source:  Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Obituaries
Monday, 24 August 2020 00:01

Henrietta St. Onge 1925 - 2020 TOPSHAM - Henrietta St. Onge, of Topsham, passed away Aug. 16, 2020. Henrietta ...

County athletic programs preparing the new challenges fall sports would create
Source:  Bangor Daily News
Monday, 24 August 2020 00:00

With some Aroostook County high schools already in session and others nearing opening day in this age of COVID-19, there may be no athletic administrator in the region busier than Lynn Wetmore.

Wetmore not only organizes the Madawaska High School athletic program, she’s also the school nurse — a combination that has made for busy times as she prepares for the first full day of classes on Aug. 31.

“It is a little bit frustrating, but these days I think we just have to go with it and do what we can and make it work,� she said. “We do the best we can.�

Wetmore’s primary job at the moment involves protecting the health of incoming students and staff in conjunction with coronavirus guidelines.

“I just want to be able to see kids start school, and for right now that would be my first priority, and then let’s go with whatever else we can fit in with that,� she said.

Wetmore is working with fellow Aroostook League athletic administrators to prepare for a sports season that remains in jeopardy. The Maine Principals’ Association is expected to announce Aug. 27 what kind of varsity competition, if any, will take place in Maine this fall.

Madawaska offers soccer and cross country and recently received approval to field a golf team.

“It’s been a little crazy with the schedules because some schools have harvest [break] for two weeks, some have harvest break for three weeks,� Wetmore said. “Some can play during break, some can’t.�

She also cited new busing guidelines that will force schools to send the boys team on one bus and the girls on another.

County teams traditionally have started preseason practices in July and begun the regular season in mid-August to compensate for the annual potato harvest break in late September and early October.

This year Aroostook League schools first pushed the start of practices back to Aug. 17, and then Sept. 1, to allow school officials to establish their return-to-school plans.

“It’s a huge undertaking,� said Tim Doak, superintendent of schools for Caribou and Fort Fairfield. “Schools were never designed for what we’re doing in a COVID world.�

Many County schools also have offered MPA-sanctioned voluntary conditioning programs for athletes this summer. They are in place to help compensate for conditioning lost when the spring sports season was cancelled and to re-engage athletes with their teammates and coaches.

“Our participation has been through the roof, much more than I expected,� Presque Isle athletic administrator Mark White said. “I think kids are ready to get out and do something, and the coaches are ready to do something.�

The final phase of the MPA conditioning program begins Monday for schools scheduled to begin tryouts on Sept. 1 and lasts two weeks for Penobscot Valley Conference schools like Class B Presque Isle and Caribou that will start tryouts on Sept. 8, the same date as other downstate schools.

The first day for countable fall matches is Sept. 18 for PVC schools, while Aroostook League schools may begin the regular season no sooner than Sept. 11.

The late start means athletic administrators had to devise a condensed soccer schedule, since the final day for countable games is Oct. 22.

For some Aroostook County schools, that may mean breaking from tradition and playing games during the harvest break.

“It puts a different wrinkle into it because if sports go ahead we can’t get our schedule in otherwise,� Wetmore said of Madawaska, which observes a two-week harvest break.

Soccer schedules statewide have been reduced from 14 to 10 games, with an emphasis on regionalization to reduce travel and address physical distancing guidelines. The protocols reduce the number of passengers on a typical school bus by more than half, to the mid-20s on average.

Aroostook League schools, which typically play boys and girls varsity soccer doubleheaders, will now often have more bus runs on game night since the teams won’t ride together.

If Fort Fairfield has a doubleheader at Central Aroostook with games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., a bus will take the team that’s playing first to Mars Hill, then return to Fort Fairfield and be wiped down before taking the other team to the same game site, Fort Fairfield athletic administrator Tim Watt said.

Two separate bus runs would then be required to take the teams home after their games.

“Every team will travel alone on a bus for the first time that I ever heard of,� Easton athletic administrator Bryan Shaw said. “Of course, this can make for many scheduling challenges, especially for small schools with few buses.�

Presque Isle and Caribou will play two soccer matches against each other as well as two games each against Class C Fort Kent and Houlton. Their other four matches will be against other PVC foes, two at home and two on the road.

“Presque Isle’s been very well taken care of by the PVC,� White said.

While Maine athletic administrators wait to see if all their preparatory work will be needed, some already are considering other options.

“What we’re going to try to do in Fort Fairfield and Caribou is offer some type of different activity that’s safe if we don’t have sports,� Doak said.

“We’ve been looking at everything from mountain biking to fly fishing,� Doak said. “A lot of kids don’t know how to use a fly rod, so could we do that in our PE classes and as an after-school activity to give kids something to do that’s safe and spread out.�

It also is exploring e-sports.

“We are officially in the ‘hurry up and wait’ stage of prepping for soccer this fall,� Shaw said. “I think it is safe to say that all parents, student-athletes and athletic administrators have their fingers crossed.�


The coronavirus wounded downtown Portland, but experts say it will recover
Source:  Bangor Daily News
Monday, 24 August 2020 00:00

PORTLAND, Maine — Empty stores, papered-over windows and “closed� signs on doors — some permanent — appear at regular intervals on Congress Street, the retail and commercial thoroughfare running through the heart of Maine’s largest city and economic engine.

During a recent walk down Congress Street, a reporter discovered at least 16 empty first-floor spaces, including the former homes of Mainely Wraps, the Higher Concept Glass Gallery head shop and the recently closed Port City Music Hall. Lease signs dot the landscape where businesses moved out during the pandemic or before it, leaving slow-to-lease spaces behind.

The city has yet to tally the damage in lost taxes or tourist sentiment, a Portland city councilor said, and it could take the development of a coronavirus vaccine to turn things around. If the history of previous economic downturns repeats itself, however, Portland’s downtown will be rejuvenated after the coronavirus is quelled, experts said.

“People like to shop and recreate in places where there are multiple businesses in close proximity,â€� Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said. “That is a permanent advantage for downtowns all over the country.â€�

For now, he said closures like those in Portland are playing out in downtowns around the country. With the virus still raging, he said, people are choosing to not go out. That is challenging downtowns.

Still, businesses are trying to get back on their feet. In July, 86 percent of U.S. small businesses said they were either fully or partially open, up from 79 percent in May, according to a MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll in July. Most remain concerned about financial hardship from prolonged closures and a little more than half worried about having to permanently close, especially if there is a second wave of coronavirus.

A man and dog are reflected in the front door and side window of the gated and empty storefront at 484 Congress St. in Portland on Aug. 20. Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

That is showing up in local figures. Of 91 businesses surveyed recently by Portland Buy Local, 58 percent said they were generating 40 percent or less of their typical revenue over the summer.

“Until we have a widely adopted vaccine and this virus is behind us, we’ll continue to see a lot of ‘for lease’ signs on Congress Street and elsewhere,â€� Justin Lamontagne, partner and broker at NAI The Dunham Group in Portland, said. “I think retailers will come back and certainly restaurants, but in the short term it’s going to get worse before it gets better.â€�

That’s what happened to Vinland, a restaurant at 593 Congress St. whose owner announced its permanent closure in a Facebook post last Friday. David Levi said his locally sourced restaurant could not withstand the disproportionate impact on fine dining and the economic downturn.

He cooked his last meals on March 15. Gov. Janet Mills ordered restaurants to close indoor dining on March 18, initially for two weeks, and then to keep closed until June 17, though outdoor dining was allowed before then. Capacity limits in retail stores also were raised on June 17.

David Levi, the owner of Vinland, stands in the dining room amongst original artworks in this 2013 file photo. He recently closed his restaurant amid the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

“I’d hoped for a reopening even as I failed to see the viable path,” he said.

Portland City Councilor Justin Costa, who chairs the city’s economic development committee, said the city has relatively limited resources to help. That includes small amounts of financial assistance through the Portland Development Corp. and the closure of some streets to traffic to help boost restaurant traffic, though that has also deterred some customers who like to park close to where they shop.

Costa said he’s still waiting to see how the closures, recession, virus and federal actions to support businesses will play out. As long as the virus continues to spread, he said, consumer spending is going to be down in record amounts.

“There’s no question that if [federal help] doesn’t happen, the effects could be catastrophic on the city’s economy and the economy of the whole state,â€� he said. “I don’t think there’s any way to get around or sugarcoat that reality.â€�

Portland City Councilor Justin Costa sits in the council chambers in this 2017 file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Not all the news is bad. Some empty spaces sport signs saying another tenant is moving in. The former home to Mainely Wraps at 431 Congress St. has a sign saying Flores Salvadoran Restaurant is coming soon. Hazy Hill Farm Made in Maine, a medical marijuana company with two conditional adult-use licenses, plans to move into the space at 484 Congress St. formerly occupied by a Boost Mobile location.

While demand for retail and office space is slowing somewhat, there are still people looking for downtown space. The first floor of the building at 480 Congress St. was for lease before the pandemic broke, but it is now under contract with due diligence being performed on the new tenant, Silas Hatch, a broker at NAI The Dunham Group, said.

Hatch said many different factors play into leasing, including whether a client really wants the location, which was a factor in the 480 Congress St. lease, and whether or not the city will grant a permit for a different use of a building.

Venues like Port City Music Hall, a large and specialized space for concerts, will likely have difficulty getting new tenants because crowd restrictions make it hard to put on shows, Hatch said. Buildings outfitted for restaurants may also face a challenge. Hatch said he normally has up to a dozen restaurants looking for space, but there are none now.

On the upside, rents may drop a little, and some businesses may be able to take advantage of that, he said.

Cary Tyson, executive director of Portland Downtown, a nonprofit focused on improving the city’s downtown area, remained optimistic despite counting 13 businesses that already have closed throughout downtown Portland during the pandemic, citing agreements between neighboring businesses to allow restaurants to use more outdoor space.

“I’ve seen some good collaboration come out of this situation,� he said.

He recognized, though, that there is less opportunity for people to go downtowns spontaneously for coffee or dinner. Those ripple effects could remain for a long time.

“You’re not making that trip so you’re not stopping and buying that book you’ve had your eye on or seeing the ‘sale’ sign in a store and buying that shirt or pair of shoes,� he said.


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